The former head of Massachusetts Financial Services' bank sales unit has a new mission-helping make the company one of the biggest institutional asset managers within five years.

Massachusetts Financial has grown into a respectable player in the institutional business in recent years, Lisa M. Jones said, and "we now want to become incredibly successful in this marketplace."

The Boston company manages $18 billion of assets for institutional clients and total assets of $116 billion, including mutual funds, offshore funds, and insurance products.

Ms. Jones started July 1 in the newly created post of managing director for marketing and product development for institutional business and is familiarizing herself with the business after six years as head of the bank sales unit.

With direct oversight of 30 people - about the same number she managed in the bank division - Ms. Jones is targeting clients including corporate, not-for-profit, and union pension plans, as well as high-net-worth investors.

Joseph Trainor, the president of MFS Institutional Advisors, said the unit will try to double or triple its assets under management within five years.

Even if it succeeds, Massachusetts Financial would be far behind the leaders in the business. According to Pensions & Investments newspaper, the company is the 75th-largest institutional asset manager. State Street Global, Barclays Global Advisors, Fidelity Investments, TIAA-CREF, and Bankers Trust each has more than $200 billion of assets under management.

Massachusetts Financial is banking on 401(k) business for much of its growth-defined-contribution plans have accounted for one-third of the unit's business this year, Mr. Trainor said.

The promotion of Ms. Jones to help boost its institutional business came seven months after OppenheimerFunds announced it would buy Trinity Investment Management to heighten its profile in that business.

"One of the things people are focusing on is the ability to diversify their own book so they've got multiple stakes in the ground," said Geoffrey H. Bobroff, a mutual fund consultant in East Greenwich, R.I.

Doing so "provides you with some long-term stability as an investment management firm," Ms. Jones said.

With 107 employees, MFS Institutional Advisors does not need to add people to grow, Mr. Trainor said.

"We feel as though we are staffed pretty well," he said, adding that Ms. Jones is "not walking into an effort that is small."

Founded in 1970, Massachusetts Financial's institutional arm grew slowly, amassing about $3 billion of assets by 1994. It has grown quickly since then as the company has made it a priority.

Industry observers said that one hurdle the company must overcome to be an elite institutional player is to have its fund managers stick more closely to their funds' investment styles.

Institutional investors frown on managers' straying outside their funds' category to juice up performance; they prefer predictability to possibly higher returns.

Massachusetts Financial is working to eliminate style drift, Mr. Trainor said. It started applying quality-control procedures a year ago that will eventually be used for all its funds.

That will take time, Mr. Trainor said, calling the effort an "enormous" undertaking.

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